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Cops jailed 26 years for 132 counts of fraud


Brian Chiwanza

Three former police officers have been sentenced to a combined 26 years behind bars for 132 counts of fraud they committed between 2007 and 2010.

Motlalepula Roomane (45), Antony Molomo (46) and Moeti Seala (36) were working in the salaries department and based at Police Headquarters at the time and created eight fictitious officers whom they paid M822, 863, 20. The trio then shared the proceeds, with Roomane pocketing M234, 346, Molomo taking M215, 044 and Seala getting M206, 721.

The case was first before the Maseru Magistrate Court on 19 December 2012, with the trio being found guilty on 7 August 2013. However, arguments on sentencing were postponed on a number of occasions hence the delay in sentencing, which was only handed down last Monday by Chief Magistrate Makampong Gugu Mokhoro.

It was submitted before court that the three were responsible for maintaining the Lesotho Mounted Police Service payroll and engaging new officers, and took advantage of their positions to swindle government of the said amount.

According to evidence presented in court, the money was paid through relatives’ bank accounts.

On Monday, Chief Magistrate Mokhoro sentenced Roomane to 10 years behind bars, and suspended three years of the punishment on condition he pays back M160, 000. The magistrate jailed Molomo for eight and suspended three years of the term on condition he pays back M145, 000. Seala was also sentenced to eight years in prison and will only spend five years behind bars if he pays back M145, 000.

Announcing the verdict, Chief Magistrate Mokhoro said he had considered submissions by Crown Counsel Advocate Peter Matekane and defence lawyer, Advocate Akhosi, when making his ruling.

“Both counsel agreed that the court should pass a sentence that would deter the accused and others from committing a similar offense in future,” he noted.

“The employer is the government of Lesotho and a loss of money to government is a loss to the citizens of the country.

“The accused worked in concert with a common purpose to benefit from this crime. Roomane was the main role-player; he appears to have had the technical know-how and was strategically positioned to create the fictitious police officers and enter them onto the payroll.

“The second and third accused had equal participation. Even though the second accused (Molomo) appeared to have received a larger amount, what is known about these types of crimes is those involved share equally.”

The magistrate then ordered the three men to surrender to the court, title deeds to the property set to be auctioned for the state to recover the stolen money.

“The accused should submit title deeds for all movable and immovable property they are surrendering for the recovery of proceeds of this crime. All the property identified will be valued and auctioned.

“If not sufficient, a determination will be made as to how else the money will be recovered. Properties are to be sold jointly and feedback in the evaluation will be made before court on 11 December 2015.”

Meanwhile, Advocate Matekane told the court the three men had been greedy when they stole the money.

“They built houses and bought cars with the money; how they manipulated the system is astounding. The victim was not only the police or government but also the taxpayer. The money should have benefited development, built infrastructure and created employment,” he said.

In seeking a lenient sentence, Advocate Akhosi told the court his clients were cooperative with investigations from the onset and did not waste the court’s time by pleading guilty to the charges.

“They have been cooperative with the DCEO (Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences) and this shows remorse on their part.

“Age should also be considered for Roomane and Molomo, as they are between the ages of 40 and 50. We submit that regard be heard to offer them the opportunity to reform and begin a new life. The accused have agreed to repay 50 percent of the money; they have families to support and imprisonment would not only destroy them but the lives of innocent people will also be affected.”

However, Chief Magistrate Mokhoro said the trio abused their positions and should pay for their crimes.



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